Chronicles of the Hedge
Jeff Ovall
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Chronicles of the Hedge

Jeff Ovall
Xulon Press
371 pages
June 2001
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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An outspoken opponent of humanism's increasing ascendancy in today's world, author Jeff Ovall - whose opinions have appeared in the daily newspapers of Washington, D.C., where he makes his home, and whose inspirational nuggets of wisdom can be found on the web at - makes his spiritual position clear in his first novel, Chronicles of the Hedge. A futuristic take on the dictatorial one-world government theme, it's a kind of pre-apocalyptic single-volume Left Behind, the popular religious fiction series co-penned by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

Curled Up With a Good BookThe action centers on John Rex, a rebel fugitive of the Christian underground in the Western United States Sector at some undetermined point in the third millennium.  In the Prologue, Ovall sums up the story's scenario:

     Humanity's Edge (HEdge) is the reigning world government. Ten consortium members representing every sector of the globe make up the HEdge Council, the supreme authority of the land. Forty Sector Chiefs were tendered appointments to oversee the world's finances; appointments only the HEdge Council could terminate.
     Living under the shadows of this godless regime, Christians risk their lives daily as they struggle to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as the war rages, God's people don't falter, but instead rise to the occasion in a mighty way.
     So the struggle continues; the evils of the world seducing the sould of the many, while God's remnant batt;es against all odds to bring salvation to a lost and dying world.

When John Rex travels from his California home to New York City in the Eastern U.S. Sector to meet a childhood friend, he is recognized by a bitter young man who alerts the government to his whereabouts. Although the underground Christian movement does all it can to protect the rebel evangelist, the HEdge sets a deadly trap for Rex using his family as bait. The hyperbolically villainous Chief of Eastern U.S. Sector HEdge Forces, Roderick Banchard, fresh from directing the horrific massacre of a crowd of thousands at a canceled speech in the New York State Auditorium, becomes obsessed with capturing John Rex and forcing him to repudiate his faith.

Corrupt representatives, passionless government accountants and the overblown God-complexes of the HEdge Council are the manifestations of a godless society's fall from dignity and grace. In the end, it will take the reunion of estranged brothers from opposite sides of the spiritual divide and of the law, as well as the prayerful and dedicated efforts of members of the Christian underground, to bring the redemptive message of Jesus Christ to the oppressed masses.

Ovall's sincerity in Chronicles of the Hedge is never in question.  The novel's high point is most likely the vividly drawn celebration by members of the underground who, in a neat parallel to the earliest Christian community's secret meetings in the below-ground catacombs of Rome, gather to worship in huge abandoned sections of the New York City subway system. Unfortunately, the eloquence of his opinion and inspirational writing too often eludes Ovall in his first stab at fiction - disconcerting word misuses and confusing verb tense switches mid-paragraph as well as some clunky dialogue and exposition keep Chronicles of the Hedge from coming close to realizing its potential. At least mentioning persecution of other religious groups would add credibility to the new world order Ovall has imagined.  Hopefully on his next novel outing, Ovall can translate the expressive passion of his nonfiction voice into a cleaner finished product with the help of a stern editor's once- or twice-over.

© 2002 by Sharon Schulz-Elsing for Curled Up With a Good Book

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